The next season of Indian Premier League (IPL) could witness a change in the way Indians watch cricket as a large number of internet companies have picked up bidding documents for the T20 league’s broadcast rights.
Facebook, Twitter and Amazon are among the 18 bidders (Google didn’t participate) who want media rights of the league.
“With the global trends of showcasing content on multiple platforms becoming increasingly important, TV, internet and mobile rights are up for grabs together this time,” said Anurag Thakur, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in a press statement.
As India has three times more mobile internet users compared to television homes, video consumption is expected to shift to handhelds, even though a cricket match is a community affair in the country, usually viewed with friends and family.
The move comes at a time when internet companies are shifting their focus from active users and number of downloads, to amount of time spent on the platform. That gives internet companies the bargaining power to generate higher advertisement revenue with brands.
“The big war on the internet is not about how many people are using it, but is about how much time people are spending on it,” said a senior executive with a global internet giant.
In the last couple of years, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have made their intentions clear to target the video business in India. (More than half of the data consumed in India are for viewing videos). Amazon is the last to enter the fray with Prime.
Prime, essentially a premium Amazon membership for faster delivery of goods bought on the platform, is also a competitor to Netflix, Hotstar and other streaming platforms.
Facebook on the other hand has a bunch of video features such as Facebook Live and 360 video. The match could be streamed live from IPL’s Facebook page. The social media giant could stream exclusive interviews, special talks, and run everything to do with cricket to drive engagement, and would eventually monetise the traffic IPL generates.
Twitter on the other hand has Periscope. In April, it had announced it will enter the live streaming space with NFL — the American football league — and stream 10 games straight from NFL’s Twitter handle. It will do the same with the Melbourne Cup, the world’s most expensive horse racing event.
In an earlier conversation with HT, Parminder Singh, Twitter’s MD for India said, “You should think of Twitter as a complimentary medium to televison.”
Both, Twitter and Facebook declined to comment on the IPL bidding.
However, Chris Cox, chief product officer of Facebook, told HT in January that the company will bet big on cricket in India. The idea is to have every player interact with their fans on Facebook apart from streaming the match.
Even Indian companies such as Reliance Jio and Times Internet are in the race to grab the rights.